Brussels, 24 May 2004
The European Commission is providing seven million euro for a new project, entitled TRANS-BIG, and aimed at addressing breast cancer treatment.
'Cancer is the main cause of death of women aged 35 to 64 in the EU,' explained Dr Martine Piccart, the project coordinator. 'In 2000 alone, 351,680 new cases were diagnosed in the enlarged EU.' However, at present, 'patients are over treated while only a few derive a considerable benefit,' said Dr Piccart.
The aim of this Network of Excellence, which brings together 39 partners from 21 countries, is therefore to refine prognosis for a better definition of who needs treatment, and thus to reduce the proportion of women receiving unnecessary chemotherapy.
'This would significantly reduce their exposure to toxicity and harmful long-term side effects, while significantly reducing the cost of breast cancer therapy and its burden on European health care systems,' said Dr Piccart.
Indeed, two decades of clinical trials have shown that chemotherapy, although it increases the survival rate from 2 to 12 per cent, can also be the cause of secondary cancers, cardiac toxicity, early menopause and a reduction in cognitive functions.
Over the next five years, TRANS-BIG, which is based on the principles of translational research, namely, 'bench to bedside' and 'bedside to bench', will tackle the fragmentation which exists in this field of research and accelerate the clinical applications of biological discoveries.
'The TRANS-BIG consortium will obtain the critical mass expertise needed to create a fully coherent research force of leading European specialists in Europe. This will combat the existing fragmentation of effort and give Europe the competitive approach it needs to take the lead in breast cancer therapy internationally,' explained Dr Piccart.
The first main project of TRANS-BIG is Mindact (Microarray for Node Negative Disease may avoid Chemotherapy). Mindact will use microarrays, a technology used to identify the specific molecular make up ('signature') of a tumour. It is expected that this technology, though still in its infancy, will allow for a better selection of the patients that actually do need chemotherapy, thus sparing patients with a low risk of relapse from overtreatment.
By conducting translational research in an integrated way, the project will ensure that the best facilities from the leading cancer research and treatment institutes will be shared, thus decreasing cost and increasing effectiveness.
For further information, please contact the project coordinator: